The Chocolate’s Okay, But I Melted!


The Chocolate’s Okay, But I Melted!

chocolates-491165_640The room spun. Heather found herself looking at the turkey in the oven; two empty pans on the stove; her husband, in his wheelchair, handing her a potholder; and her daughter and her family coming through the backdoor—all with muddy boots.

She’s not sure what did it for her: The empty pots which reminded her that she had forgotten to make the mashed potatoes and gravy; her husband, spending his first holiday season in the wheelchair, but so eager to help; or her daughter’s family and all its energy entering her home of sadness.

But, whatever it was: It did her in. She started sobbing, right then, uncontrollably. It’s that other holiday tradition we hate to talk about: The MeltDown.

It would be okay if it happened in private, when you’re alone. But it never does. It’s always in public—at the grocery store, at the doctor’s office, at the family get-together--when the uncontrollable sobbing (or irrational temper tantrum) starts.

Thirty minutes later, you’re exhausted and sitting in front of a group of people who are uncomfortable, embarrassed and obviously walking on eggshells as they offer water, coffee, a stiff drink. The AfterGlow moments are sometimes more humiliating than the MeltDown itself.

It can happen and when the holidays approach, the chances increase greatly. Some ideas on managing the MeltDown and its AfterGlow.

1. The added stress and duties of the holiday season may tempt you to cut back on some of your other activities, such as involvement in your support group meetings, writing in your journal, taking time away from caregiving with regular walks. It’s critical to stay involved in those activities that offer you support and a safe place to vent.

The holidays are milestones in our year and, during those milestones, it’s hard not to worry: Will this be the last holiday we’ll have together as a whole family? That’s a hard question to face. Sharing your sadness and grief—and worries that this may be the last holiday together—will help you cope with the overwhelming emotions that accompany the question. This way, you’ll be managing your emotions—rather than the other way around.

2. Let yourself off the hook for “imperfect” holidays. Keep in mind that the true gift of the holidays is the time spent with family and friends. Good food is great, but love and laughter are the best seasonings on any dish. Keep it simple, so the true moments of the holiday are your most flavorful.

3. If you do have a MeltDown, give yourself time to gain your composure; excuse yourself to the bathroom, bedroom, backyard—anywhere that you feel comfortable. When you return, apologize and thank everyone for their help. Give your care recipient a hug and a kiss. Then move on, don’t dwell on what happened. And, give yourself the rest of the day off: Ask family and friends to finish dinner, clean up after dinner, serve dessert.

4. You’ve survived the AfterGlow of the MeltDown; now take some time to review the trigger that led to the MeltDown. Were you doing too much on too little sleep? Trying to prepare a gourmet meal? Taking on all responsibilities without delegating? Review what went wrong, then commit to making changes to avoid a similar MeltDown in the future. And, if you need more help, ask for it.

5. Forgive yourself. You’re always doing your very, very best. And, that’s always good enough.

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